Walter Riley Brophy, Jr. departed this life on February 7, 2015, at age 90, at home with his loving family around him. During his final days, he asked that we share his awesome journey of 90 years.
Walt was born in Orange, CA, in 1924 to Lillian and Walter Brophy Sr. He was the oldest of their four children (and big brother to Lillian's son from her second marriage). Walt's vivid descriptions of his life during the twenties and thirties in the Salinas and Monterey areas, sounded like a John Steinbeck novel, and provided endless hours of fascinating California history. During the years of the Great Depression, he worked at whatever jobs young children could find to help out. He delivered newspapers to the colorful and questionable establishments of Cannery Row and Fort Ord. He continued working throughout his school years, and his red hair, sparkling Irish eyes and charismatic personality began his successful work history of almost 80 years.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Walt dropped out of high school, enlisting in the Navy on Dec. 8, 1941. He served proudly as a gunner's mate on the USS Salt Lake City in the Pacific theater for four years, in 13 major battles including Iowa Jima, Tarawa, Okinawa, Komandorski, The Marshalls, Aleutians, and escort to Doolittle in the raids on Tokyo. He kept in touch with shipmates throughout the years, attending reunions, and serving as an officer for the USS Salt Lake City Association.
After the war, Walt returned to school and graduated from Lincoln Law School in 1954. During that time, in 1950, he married Shirley Halling. They were married 30 years before she passed away in 1981. They had four children, Michael, Sheryl (Vietti), Tom, and Jeannie (Eminger) all who survive him, along with his beloved grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Walt was a member of the California State Bar for almost 60 years. He practiced general law in the Bay Area for several years before he was appointed as a Workers' Compensation Judge in 1963, serving the Eureka area from 1963 through 1977. The family often spent weekends and vacations in the Bay area, house boating at Trinity Lake and camping at Yosemite. He was an avid hiker, fisherman, camper, and boater all his life, and passed the love of the outdoors to his children and grandchildren.
The family moved to Shasta County in 1977, where Walt became presiding judge of the Redding WCAB until his first retirement in 1992. During his career, working for the State of California, he served as Assistant Chief for the Division of Workers' Compensation; and, in 1990, was appointed by Governor Deukmejian to serve as the Administrative Director of the Division of Workers Compensation. He was recognized in 2002 as one of the most valuable employees of the Division of Industrial Relations of the past 75 years.
In 1982, Walt met and married Carolyn (Lyn) ZeBrack, whom he lovingly labeled his "child bride". Together, they raised their daughter, Shana Brophy Kitchen, and worked together over 15 years in their private arbitration and mediation business until he finally retired from his professional life at age 85. He continued his volunteer work until age 89.
Walt and Lyn traveled the world during their 32 year marriage, visiting 72 countries of 6 continents, and all 52 states of the USA. They hiked, river rafted (17 days down the Colorado River), cruised, rode the rails, camels, elephants, and crewed on a replica of an 1868 brigantine. They often lived with locals in Bedouin camps, Mongolian yurts, pensiones, Ryokan, safari lodges, Buddhist and Jesuit retreat centers, and in an Israeli Kibbutz.
With "love and service" as his motto, he carried goodwill and respect for all, as he volunteered for over 30 years at home and abroad.
Walt is survived by his wife, Lyn, his 5 children and their spouses, his 11 grandchildren, his 2 great grandchildren, and his sister, Betty.
Walter Riley Brophy, Jr. was a "bigger than life" personality who lived an amazing life.
His legacy of living fully in the now, being of service to his Higher Power, and extending his loving arms to all around, will be remembered and cherished by all who knew and loved him. Rest peacefully, Walt, you did well.